Bernie Noe on Life After Lakeside


As the school year comes to a close, summer break isn’t the only lingering thought in students’ minds. Undoubtedly, Mr. Noe’s final days as Lakeside Head of School also comes into consciousness. From his first day on campus in 1999 to his last convocation 23 years later, Mr. Noe has worked to craft Lakeside into the diverse, inclusive school it is today. With an outstanding fashion sense and an ever-present smile, Mr. Noe makes students feel comfortable and welcome. Alumni fondly recall getting to know Mr. Noe over breakfast, cross country runners remember running alongside brisk Bernie, and drama students will never forget Mr. Noe’s encouraging presence on opening night. From large-scale institutional changes to individual acts of kindness, Mr. Noe has proven time and time again that he is the living heart of Lakeside. Now, as Mr. Noe departs Lakeside, he shares his fondest memories at Lakeside and his personal aspirations for the future.

Angelina P: What do you plan to do after leaving Lakeside? What are your dreams for the future?
Bernie Noe: My biggest project will be founding a company called the Leader Network with Jim Best, the former head of The Dalton School in New York City. The Leader Network will support new heads of schools by giving them advice on how to raise and manage funds, how to develop meaningful relationships with their board of trustees, and inform them of changes that may affect schools in the future. I may work with five to six school heads over the course of a year by meeting with them on Zoom and at least once in person.

AP: Why start this company now? How will this be different from your previous professions?
BN: First off, one third of all school heads in America will retire in the next five years. It is a very challenging time to be a school head due to COVID-19 and the recent racial reconciliation efforts, but it’s challenging in a good way. Change is necessary and I would like to help heads of schools learn how to navigate it. I will not be doing this job 75 hours a week like I am now; my goal is to work 30 to 40 hours a week. I want to have a normal life. Don’t get me wrong, Lakeside has been amazing, but living on campus and being totally all-in — it’s your life.

AP: Is there anything you are really looking forward to trying in the next year?
BN: I want to indulge in the small wonders of life. I will definitely spend a lot more time with my grandchildren than I do now. I want to run in races, do more open water swimming, and read long books. I just finished War and Peace and I want to be able to read more — at least a book per week, and having weekends and evenings free will definitely give me time for such endeavors. I also want to live in other places: in Spain for part of every year if I can, as my daughter’s spouse is from there, and also in Mexico for part of the year. I have already moved off campus and live by Green Lake now. I was out mowing the lawn on Saturday for the first time in 23 years. Honestly, I want to do more than there is time to do it.

AP: What have you enjoyed most about being head of school? What have you enjoyed least?
BN: I definitely most enjoyed the times that I was with students. During my first ten years I had breakfast with every single student over the course of the year. I taught Genocide in the Modern World for eighteen years and was an advisor for at least ten years. I also ran with the cross country team once or twice a year, and I really liked working with parents. The only part of the job I haven’t liked is the volume. It’s just a relentless volume. I often worked a 75 to 80 hour week, and every Monday it just starts all over again. I did that for 23 years here and 7 years elsewhere. It’s been three decades, and I will watch from afar as Kai [incoming Head of School Dr. Kai Bynum] takes the school somewhere else.

AP: Out of everything you have done during these three decades, what do you want to be remembered for?
BN: I want to be remembered for substantially diversifying the school and expanding the financial aid program. Lakeside has become much more diverse in my time, going from a student population of 24% students of color to 68%.

AP: Wow, that is an outstanding accomplishment! Do you have any final advice for Lakeside students?
BN: All you can ask of yourself is to do your best with the resources available to you. That’s my peace of mind. I always put my best effort into what I cared about. Do not delude yourself, but also make an effort to do your best and be honest with yourself and be at peace with the outcome.

This interview has been edited for clarity.